Ode to Darkness. Ode to Silence.

European Magazine 11 (April 1787) 286.


A pair of octosyllabic odes in the manner of Il Penseroso. Raymond Dexter Havens includes only the first in his catalogue of Milton imitations, but they would seem to be related, if only by their topics. The Ode to Silence plays with sound by alternating couplets and quatrain rhymes, concluding with an alexandrine couplet: "Whilst in one jovial, full, concordant strain | Sounds the shrill-echoing horn, enlivening all the plain."

Daughter of Styx, whose ebon wand
Can call forth airy shapes from nought;
Oh thou, whose death designing hand
(By Fancy's groundless terrors wrought)
Prowl nightly o'er the blasted heath,
Or faintly glide along some lonely path!
Hail! Goddess of th' Tartarian shade!
Whether in smiling garb array'd
Thou com'st, as when 'neath Love's soft bower
Thy influence hastes the ecstatic hour;
Or clad in stole of sabler hue,
O'erlaid with leaf of baleful yew;
Ever welcome to my sight,
Parent of imperial night!
Thou wast e'er Nature's self began;
E'er form'd that self-sufficient thing call'd Man,
Thy Stygian belt engirted all,
And wrapt in chaos gloom this earthly ball:
Till He — the wonderful unknown,
From out his awe-compelling throne,
Where thousand glories round him shine,
Bad myriad atoms to combine
And act upon the orbs of sight,
As to produce all-cheering light.
'Twas then thy influence gan to fade,
As thro' each deep embow'ring shade
The quick effluvia darting wide,
O'erwhelm'd thee with its lucid tide,
Explor'd thy realms, thy secret caves explor'd,
And thro' the void immense on dazz'ling wing high soar'd.

O thou, whose spirit breathes in each lone vale,
As gently o'er the quivering gale
Thy stilly influence hovering binds
In magic chain the whistling winds,
Soft Silence, hail! I love thy genial sway;
I love the calmer transports of thy reign,
That gives to sleep the busy day,
To rest the care-worn wanderers of the plain.
Lo! on yond' mountain's murky brow,
Round whose huge base the impetuous waves oft' pour,
Thy solemn sister bids the welkin glow,
And purple fires re-lume the midnight hour.
The darksome umbrage of the wood
Views her pale image in the flood:
Ev'ry rustling leaf is still;
Hush'd each distant murm'ring rill.
Now the Elfin train are seen
Lightly tripping o'er the green;
Sprights and fairies dance along,
To the thought-revolving song;
'Till the moon's declining ray
Trembling points the break of day:
Then, ah then! thy influence dies,
As through the azure fields of air
Thousand jocund notes arise,
Sweetly warbling far and near:
Whilst in one jovial, full, concordant strain
Sounds the shrill-echoing horn, enlivening all the plain.

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